On Tuesday, Expedia said it was slapping a beta ChatGPT interface into its app. The interface should let users plan their vacation by offering the chatbot your preferences, time of stay, and budget, and the system should create some natural language responses offering hotel or activity suggestions.
You can ask the chatbot to compare different locales and hotels. The app should also understand how best to get around the area, what’s available during the time of their stay, and more. After going through ChatGPT, users can then take the responses and create a travel plan in the main Expedia app. The beta is only available on the iOS Expedia app.
In a release, Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern said Expedia already uses machine learning systems for shopping, such as hotel comparison and price tracking for flights. The company had already partnered with OpenAI for a plugin using Expedia data like hotel and flight prices.
Back when Microsoft first announced its Bing AI, which is powered by OpenAI’s GPT language model, one of the first use cases the company offered was using it to plan vacations. Of course, what they got was a whole lot of people stretching the AI’s capabilities, causing it to “hallucinate” or otherwise share some wild responses it’s not programmed to. What’s more, Expedia left it open that people could still receive inaccurate results and “inappropriate responses,” adding “At times the experience may not work exactly as expected.” The company said it would continue to update the chatbot.
Expedia is just the latest company to use OpenAI’s paid-for API to stick the chatbot into its app. The travel conglomerate that is Expedia Group owns a whole helping of travel companies, such as Vrbo, Hotels.com, Trivago, and many more. In this case, ChatGPT is gaining access to Expedia’s monolithic data set of hotels, flights, car rentals, and on and on. Expedia itself has complained in years past about how Google search visibility had harmed its business, so in this way the travel corporation is finding a new way to keep users on the app without resorting to a third party search engine.
The company said all its data could provide “1.26 quadrillion variations” of products, but that’s a rather meaningless term. There’s around 3.2 million properties listed on the site, not to mention all the other attractions bookable through the app. What’s more important is that Expedia has become one of a few travel companies acting as the de facto middle man between properties and customers.
Despite upstarts like Airbnb and Tripadvisor taking up a good chunk of the market share, Expedia is still a domineering force in the travel booking industry. According to BusinessofApps, Expedia Group and Booking Holdings, which owns Booking.com and Priceline, take up 60% of all travel bookings in the U.S. and Europe. Some hotels have tried offering incentives for people to book directly through their website.
Those who have traveled a fair bit and stayed at smaller properties, such as hostels or family-operated hotels, know how these properties occasionally beg users to book directly in order to avoid needing to pay extra fees or from seeing any inaccurate information about their listings.
Want to know more about AI, chatbots, and the future of machine learning? Check out our full coverage of artificial intelligence, or browse our guides to The Best Free AI Art Generators, The Best ChatGPT Alternatives, and Everything We Know About OpenAI’s ChatGPT.